Food E-Commerce

A Viable Option for Supplying Rural Populations With Food in the Future?

Within the last few years, both a development towards concentration of supplier structures as well as a general increase in sales floor space could be observed with respect to food retailers in Germany. Small retail shops are being replaced by large branches of supermarket chains in centralized locations. This, however, leads to areas that are undersupplied with respect to groceries, particularly in rural regions, where people now tend to miss out on local amenities and provisions more and more.

This structural transformation in food retailing is also amplified through the effects of the demographic change currently under way. The aspects of an aging and declining population, for instance, are even more pronounced in rural regions compared to urban areas. This raises the question about how local food supply for the population in rural regions can be secured in the future if supermarket chains cannot be relied on to keep branches in locations with scarce demand, which obviously makes them uneconomical.

Given this fact, our project’s focus is on the potential of food e-commerce for securing local supply of essential groceries, which hasn’t received much attention as of yet.

With the help of a GIS model, we analyze the historic development of brick-and-mortar supermarkets in our study region. Theses insights allow us to infer potential paths of brick-and-mortar retail development, which is bound to also create the framework for remote trading of groceries. We will furthermore analyze the potential benefits or drawbacks of food e-commerce for both consumers and providers by drawing on interviews with experts or household surveys. Synthesizing these results will then allow us to attempt to answer our research question.

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